Quebec’s government is close to launching five “Innovation Zones” throughout the province, Minister of Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon confirmed to La Presse this week.
The Innovation Zones will facilitate applied research projects between large companies and startups, with the goal of creating a better qualified workforce in Quebec.
“We have a dozen projects in sight and I hope to be able to announce three or four of them in the first months of winter 2021 so that we can see, in concrete terms, what an innovation zone is,” Fitzgibbon told the newspaper.
Premier François Legault wants the Bécancour region – about 130 km northeast of Montreal, near Trois Rivieres – to host one of the Innovation Zones. Minister Fitzgibbon called it a “logical choice” given the presence of a large industrial park, a port and energy production.
Quebec wants more productivity from key technology driving sectors
Fitzgibbon told La Presse that the strategy aims mainly to “increase the level of productivity” of companies in key sectors of the economy, like life sciences or the aerospace industry.
“We have a productivity gap [in Quebec] when we compare ourselves to Ontario and the United States. It is clear that to bridge this gap, companies must be allowed to invest in research and innovation,” said Fitzgibbon. “As a preliminary move, we have planned to inject $200 million into the establishment of these innovation zones. This amount may be revised upwards based on private enterprise involvement.”
Fitzgibbon said his interest in Innovation Zones stems from trips to Hamburg, Germany, and Wichita, Kansas, which hosts an Innovation zone specializing in aerostructure technologies for the planes of the future.
“The big companies that are competing are in the same place,” he told La Presse. “They have access to a well-trained workforce. It opens up possibilities for young students looking for a well-paying job. “
He wants the same for Quebec.
The elephant in the room: more capital
It was a telling quote that came at the end of the La Presse article. The founder of a Quebec City food-ordering app, UEat, said that startups need to be able to count on capital in order to continue to innovate and to be able to recruit talent from Quebec.
“In Quebec, we are innovative. We have a creative mind and that’s undeniable,” said Alexandre Martin. “But you have to understand that we are fighting against giants with considerable resources. Hence the importance of having financial support from government.”
(Photo: Reflet du Lac, Courrierfrontenac.qc.ca)